EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 30, 2013

Multi-generational homes are on the upswing

Elder Q & A
By Rosanne DiStefano

---- — Q:Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color My elderly parents own a home too big for them to continue caring for. They know they need to consider other living arrangements but are not interested in moving to an apartment or any type of mature adult community. My husband and I have briefly mentioned the possibility of a shared living arrangement. Where can we get information on this and what our options are?

A: Prior to World War II 25 percent of family homes consisted of two or more generations living together. The trend became less popular and desirable over the next 40 years declining to around 12 percent. The pendulum has once again swung and it might surprise you to learn there are currently 50 million Americans living in multi-generational homes. The reasons for the present day situation include job losses, home foreclosures, pension funds failing, the immigration wave, cost of child care, widowhood, the high cost of living and the health decline of older relatives.

Multi-generational living can be beneficial for all involved if everyone does their homework long before the move actually takes place. Open and honest communication and co-habitation agreements are a vital component to making the smooth transition.

Family meetings should occur both prior to making the final decision and on an ongoing basis if the arrangements are agreed on. There are numerous topics for discussion including each individual’s responsibility within the household regarding chores and finances. Personal space needs to be defined and emphasis placed on respecting the privacy of each family member.

For some families one of the existing homes is the ideal choice with minor modifications or additions to create more space. A newer approach within the construction industry are homes specifically designed for multigenerational living. Understandably finances impact which direction a family takes.

The circumstances for creating a multigenerational family are going to vary greatly. What works for one may not work for another. “All in the Family: A Practical Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living” authored by Sharon Graham Niederhaus and John L. Graham is a good resource for anyone considering the move. Additional information is available on the internet for guidance and home designs.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.